Books of 2021 (part 2)

Continued from part one

  • Delilah Dirk: The Pillars of Hercules, Tony Cliff— The final installment, and the one that stretches the imagination the most—what with the lost ancient city that has ground-breaking technology and all that.  It almost sounds too fabulous, but the theme of vol.3 seems to be mankind’s tendency to exaggerate (or hide) parts of a story.  More than one villain this time, and all of them delightfully odious. 
  • Call it Courage, Armstrong Sperry— I remember snippets of Call It Courage being included in the One Year Adventure Novel course, and since then I’ve wanted to read it.  It’s a smaller book than I imagined it, but poetic. 
  • The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul— A quintessential Christian classic!  Sproul points out the holiness of God from every angle, history, philosophy, life experience, etc.  The chapters cover so much, while still being succinct.  Overall, a wonderful book on a wonderful doctrine. // September
  • Clouds of Witnesses, Dorothy Sayers— Still one of my favourites.  Once again, I was disturbed and yet interested in Mankind’s tendency to go to great lengths in order to save face.  It’s amazing how we do the same sort of thing that Adam and Eve did back in the garden, but even more amazing that we think it works. 
  • Argula Von Grumbach: A Woman before Her Time, Peter Matheson— I wanted to learn more about this interesting but mostly forgotten figure from the Reformation.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to know, but Matheson still puts together a good reconstruction of what happened, as well as the world in which Argula played her part.  I only wish her letter could be included in full, maybe even her poetry as well. 
  • The Robe, Lloyd Douglas— A somewhat frustrating book, frankly. One would expect a story based on the bible to be more biblical, but there were some parts in the story that struck me as being off somehow.  Downplaying the miracle of multiplying the bread and the fish, for example.  But odder still is when one character changes a village through social instruction, and then only at the very end tells them about Jesus.  It’s almost as if he just gave a Jordan Peterson talk, which isn’t the same as the gospel.  It’s a pity, because the concept of the book is a good one—a person being affected by Christ, learning about him through eye-witnesses, telling others—I just wish it was more solidly gospel-focused.
  • Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy Sayers— Bought this one ‘by accident’.  A happy accident, as I had been meaning to re-read it anyway.  Much like Cloud of Witnesses in that I love it, even though it leaves me sad. 
  • History of the Britons/Historia Brittonum, Nennius— A shorter book than what I expected, easily read in just a morning.  A good portion of the book is dedicated to genealogies—some very interesting names back in those days!  But there are also stories behind those names.  Some of the fascinating stories Nennius collected included the genealogies and aftermath of Troy, a brief story of King Arthur, and a bit about St. Patrick (including his former name: Maun!)
  • The Best of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton—This is frustrating.  Though advertised as the best of the stories, I had trouble enjoying them.  It had reached the point where I was reading just so that I could finish the book.  There were some good ideas, however, and I liked the mystery of the fisherman’s club.  But much of the time I couldn’t care about the characters, style, plot… I found myself distracted more often than not.  // October
  • Mouse Guard Vol.3: The Black Axe, David Peterson— The back of the book says that it is suitable for all ages, but due to the blood and some tragic content I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving this graphic novel to kiddies.  The Black Axe is excellent for older readers, however.  The artistry is beautiful, the characters and world are dynamic.  Still hoping to find that first volume.
  • Asterix in Spain, Goscinny and Uderzo—The structure strikes me as a little meandering.  The Asterix books can be like that sometimes, but I usually don’t mind that. 
  • Asterix and the Roman Agent, Goscinny and Uderzo— I have a feeling I read this one recently, but I can’t remember when.  Worth going through again, however.  Although the book brings up the very serious topic of slander and dissention, it’s still light hearted with classic silliness.  The dimwitted Romans’ perception of phycological warfare, for example, or how the villain could cause chaos simply by standing in a room.
  • Memoirs of Henry Obookiah, Edwin W. Dwight— A sadly neglected story, outside of Hawaii at least.  Though much of Henry Obookiah’s life is tragic, it was encouraging to read about his constant concern for people’s souls.    My copy of the book is a modern version, with an updated epilogue to tell the story of Obookiah’s belated and bittersweet homecoming.
  • Asterix and the Missing Scroll, Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad— A funny, fictitious story behind Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, with themes of communication and interpretation (at least, that’s what I think they were saying).  Perhaps a historic volume, since it is one of the few examples of Cacophonix the bard being useful, and the only example of him being competent.   Highlights include a nice hat-tip to Goscinny and Uderzo, and a hilariously frizzled and feisty Getafix. 
  • A Narrative of Five Youth from the Sandwich Islands, Now Receiving An Education In This Country—It’s a long title but a short book.  After reading the story of Henry Obookiah, I wanted to know the stories of his friends as well.  The biographies of Thomas Hopu, Obookiah’s closest friend, and George Prince Temoree, son of a Chief, were especially interesting.  The version I read was old, and although I didn’t mind that, I would have still liked an updated version that tells what happened to the boys in later years.
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy Sayers—A Remembrance Day Related mystery, but only to a degree.  I began to wonder if it was an appropriate read for Remembrance Day.  Remembrance Day, to me, is about respect and protection.  But throughout the book we see people dishonour and harm others with an alarming willingness.
  • Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers— Another full-sized Sayers mystery I wanted to re-read.  Still very good,—except that I kept getting the professors mixed up. 
  • Annals of the World, James Ussher—Finally finished!  I have been wanting to read this one—read it all the way through—for a very long time.  Drawing on several historical writings and records, there is a lot to cover.  But some people and periods have more information than others, so the speed of time-travel fluctuates.  I found it incredible how Ussher not only could get his hands on and organise so many histories, but also work out all the intricate calendar details. 
  • A Discourse of the Religion Anciently Professed by the Irish and British, James Ussher—When I heard that Ussher had written about the church in Celtic lands from the earliest days, I was eager to know what he had to say.  But this is more of a collection of snippets to show how the practices of ancient Celtic Christians differed from the Roman Catholic Church of Ussher’s day.  I can understand Ussher’s frustration over the claim that the Roman church is the exact same as that of the early fathers, but to refute that claim with pieced together quotes and examples can lead to the opposite (and just as bad) idea that early Christians were basically Protestants.  While I still respect Ussher, I think the book would have been better if the snippets were in context.
  • Urban Myths of Church History, Michael Svigel and John Adair—A vital book!  Not only does it correct ‘fake news’, but it also helps Christians understand each other and our view of God.  I can guarantee that everyone has heard at least one of these urban myths, perhaps even from one’s own mouth.  Some of these I was already aware of, but still glad to see addressed.  Other myths were new to me, and I had to make adjustments in my understanding of history.  (I was only sad about the story of St. Nick punching Arius being a myth.  I already knew that, but I love the story and hate to be reminded that it’s just that—a story) // November
  • Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare—After reading about them in Ussher’s Annals, I figured I’d try Shakespeare’s rendition.  I had forgotten how vulgar he could be (granted, if I hadn’t insisted on reading the footnotes, most of the sexual allusions would have gone over my uncultured head).  The concept of ‘Venus and Mars’ is interesting, except that Cleopatra and Antony handle love and war so poorly.
  • History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth—Very fun and interesting all the way through, but I consider the first sections of the book to be the best.  I get to hear about the aftermath of Troy from another angle (I’m reading my Troy tales all out of order, oh no!), as well as the story of King Leir, and before him Bladud, the British Icarus.  There are stories of men who love to swing axes and wrestle giants, there are stories of vengeful queens, and there is even a man-swallowing monster.  Then in the later chapters Merlin and Arthur appear—with more detail than what Nennius gives. My main complaint is the section with Merlin’s prophecies.  Aside from being tedious, that chapter was a bit over the top…  couple too many nudes riding dragons.  
  • Busman’s Honeymoon, Dorothy Sayers—And with that, I’ve finished my Wimsey re-reads.  Interesting how I started with a book that shows mankind’s tendency to think things will be okay so long as we only show the nice half of the needlework, so to speak.  But I finish with a book that turns the needlework around, and acknowledges the tangles hidden on the other side.  Even the Wimsey family ghosts show that more goes on than what we often see. 
  • Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes—The stories I’ve heard are true: this book is remarkably good.  Despite living so close to the USA, and taking in so much USA media, I never really understood the reasons behind the Boston Revolt (and I was always scandalised by the Boston Tea Party.  Why the TEA?) But Forbes was a historian, and with historian care described what happened and why, in a way that both children and confused Canadians could understand (still a little bitter about the tea, to be honest). On top of all that, the story was well done, and each character—both Yankee and British soldier—felt refreshingly human. // December

   I did it!  I thought that I would rue it, I doubted I’d do it, but succeed I did!  Yes, there were times when I wanted to rush through my reading and stack on more books.  But I cut down my reading to 50 books, and was able to enjoy two tomes that had previously intimidated me.  History and Historical Fiction were the main genres, with Children’s and (Auto)Biographies coming in second.  I’m glad I was able to balance out my heavier reading with some frivolous fun through comics and kid books.  After a long journey, I finally finished the Mysterious Benedict Society series, and discovered new adventures in the Delilah Dirk comics.  I was also able to enjoy a re-read of my favourite Wimsey mysteries.  I knew they were due for a re-read, I just didn’t expect for it to be so soon.  My main surprise is that I didn’t read the next book in Nick Needham’s Church history series, even though I had it.  I have quite a backlog of books, especially since I bought so many last year.  I look forward to giving those unread books some attention in 2022… while still being able to take things slow, and reading some more fat books.

2 thoughts on “Books of 2021 (part 2)

  1. I thought from part 1 that you seemed to do pretty well Tackling the Tomes, and I’m so pleased to see that you did! I think I’m gonna try something similar this year – at least with the long Russian novels and ancient nonfiction that has been intimidating me for much too long – so hopefully that goes well. And I hope you have another excellent reading year yourself!

    I wonder which Father Brown stories were in that collection – I certainly like some of them less than others, and find some tedious. The one at the fisherman’s club is one of my favorites, though. And The Resurrection of Father Brown and The Secret Garden and The Wrong Shape and that one where they do a pantomime show and also the very first one – called The Blue Cross maybe? – but anyway. Did you happen to read any of those?

    My sister just refuses to believe that Nicholas punching Arius is a myth, haha. It is a pretty grand story.

    Ooh, I’m so happy you enjoyed Johnny Tremain! And that it made some sense out of that era for you. I learned a LOT about it growing up, so I had a pretty good handle on all the politics and issues and stuff, but Johnny Tremain made it come alive for me in a new way and made me see these interesting historical figures more as People Who Really Lived, you know? Folks just living their lives. I must confess, though, that I hated tea as a child and, on account of my mother making me drink it when I got sick, always took a gleeful pleasure in the Boston Tea Party. But I have since learned the error of my ways.

    Like

    1. Thank you! Yes, Russian novels and ancient non-fiction need plenty of time and attention. But the reward is bragging rights.

      I think this collection started with Secret Garden, and there was also The Wrong Shape. The concepts were interesting. But there was, as you said, an element of tediousness in the writing style, though some of the ideas were very dramatic. It just didn’t mix well. But the Fishermen Club was a good one.

      I don’t blame your sister! I don’t want to muddy history with myths, but this one is such a good myth that I admit I wish it was truth.

      Yes, it was very good! But in Canada I suppose we learn more about the Loyalists. Oh no! I’m glad that was remedied!

      Liked by 1 person

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